Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance:Volume18 Chapter1
Chapter 1 - Demon King
"...These spirits are relentless!"
"They are most likely following the scent of our divine power—"
Ellis complained in suffering while racing through the streets of the Demon King City like the wind.
The spirits sent by the Sacred Spirit Knights were behind, chasing after them. They belonged to the special operative Ayla Cedar whose contracted spirit Shade Wolf was a spirit collective. As a fully autonomous type of spirit, they were able to stay in the shadows of Claire and Ellis and keep following them while they kept running.
Several minutes earlier, the two of them had encountered the Sacred Spirit Knights in a plaza in the Demon King City. Luminaris was searching for the Fire Elemental Lord's avatar that they had lost track of, whereas Claire and Ellis happened to be moving around with the Fire Elemental Lord.
"The Holy Kingdom has found out we're here."
"Yes, looks like it would be wise to meet up with Kamito and the others then get out of here!"
Ellis turned her body and swung Ray Hawk.
The wind blade generated from the spear tip sliced a chasing shadow hound into two.
However, the bifurcated hound silently melted into the ground, then emerged from the shadow of another building.
"There is no end to this."
"Collective spirits specialized in tracking ability, what a pain..."
"I was chased by that shadow hound during the final round on Ragna Ys. Looks like fate has brought us together again."
The hound attacked from above. This time, Claire intercepted it using Flametongue.
With the sound of air being torn apart, the hound was instantly burned to nothing.
(...This kind of pursuit is to the enemy's advantage. This is bad.)
Without even glancing at the shadow that had been turned to charcoal, Claire silently pondered. It was quite likely that the knights under Luminaris' command were lying in wait ahead of time at the exit of this road.
Given Claire and her companions' current level, they could probably hold their own in a fight against Luminaris or the spirit knights of the Holy Kingdom. However, fighting so many of them at the same time would still be too challenging.
(That being said, we can't use Ellis' wind magic to fly either—)
That would end up playing into enemy hands, since the Sacred Spirit Knights included a couple professional snipers.
"Seriously, where has Kamito gone off to at a time like this!?"
"I really doubt that Kamito has been caught by the Holy Kingdom—"
"This way, circle around the back and capture them!"
Luminaris' command sounded on the main street.
Ahead of them, footsteps of multiple people approached.
"They have us surrounded front and back. What do we do?"
"That leaves us no choice but to break through directly...!?"
Claire and Ellis prepared themselves, stopping to manifest their elemental waffen. Just then...
A terrifying explosion was heard. The ground shook intensely.
"The ground is splitting open!?"
Cracks appeared in stone buldings, which then collapsed in the massive earthquake.
This was not the Sacred Spirit Knights attacking, because they could see Luminaris and her subordinates up ahead in the main road in confusion just as Claire and Ellis were.
"—Claire, we are taking flight!"
Claire swiftly nodded and Ellis grabbed her arm. Using this moment of confusion would allow them to capitalize on openings in the enemy snipers. What a bold yet accurate judgment call.
Ellis swung Ray Hawk with one hand, producing intense wind that formed a hurricane. The two girls instantly passed over the roofs of buildings and flew.
Released by the snipers, arrows of holy light fell like rain. However, because they reacted to late due to the chaos, they committed a serious mistake.
Turning swiftly in the air, Ellis evaded the rain of arrows spectacularly.
"Turn into charcoal!"
As payback, Claire released a Fireball, blowing away all the snipers hiding in the shadows of a building.
"Anyway, let's escape to the hotel where Fianna and the others are standing by—"
"Yes, but what was the earthquake just now...?"
Ellis wiped sweat with her sleeve while looking down at the Demon King City beneath them.
A sudden massive fissure that had appeared across the land, swallowing roads and buildings, looked like it had gotten bigger.
"This is no ordinary earthquake—"
"Yes. All things considered, earthquakes are phenomena caused by angry earth spirits. In this Ghul-a-val, the land forsaken by spirits, earthquakes should be impossible—"
"Ellis, look now! There's something in the fissure!"
"...What is that?"
Ellis looked at where Claire was pointing at.
In the depths of the giant fissure, amid viscous darkness, some kind of gigantic shadow was trying to crawl out.
"Could it be a spirit...?"
"...Come on, what the heck is going on!?"
"What the hell happened...?"
Surrounded by darkness, unable to see his own outstretched hand, Kamito opened his eyes.
He felt waves of pain from his head.
How much time had passed since he lost consciousness?
"...Say, where is this place?"
While pressing on his temple, Kamito looked around him.
A small lamp was lit with an ancient silver candlestick, providing illumination.
The stone floor had moss on it with fallen stone pillars.
The paintings on the walls had almost completely flaked off, indicating the sad state of affairs.
It was most likely some kind of decrepit ancient shrine. Kamito could not help but recall the final round of the Blade Dance, which was held at the ruins of Megidoa the abandoned city.
(Wait, why am I here...!?)
Kamito was more and more confused.
His memories from before losing consciousness had broken off somewhere suddenly.
(—I remember I was supposed to be fighting Lurie underground in the Demon King's Tomb.)
The assassin sent by the Holy Kingdom to target the Demon King's Coffin was Lurie Lizaldia, the Blade Dance winner fifteen years ago. After an intense blade dance against her, Kamito defeated her.
However, she still had a final resort.
She activated the spirit detonation installed in her own heart, a weapon of mass destruction using the power of spirits, intending to destroy the Demon King's Tomb that was protected by a barrier.
Ironically, she, who hated war and had wished upon the Elemental Lords to eliminate war—
Had now used the most terrifying weapon to be produced during the Ranbal War.
(...I still remember everything up to this point. What's interrupted is my memory afterwards—)
Back then, what had happened to him, closest to the blast center as he was?
"Don't tell me..."
Kamito thought of a terrifying possibility and broke out in cold sweat.
Even though he survived many perils thanks to Est's Protection of Steel, one would not expect him to emerge unscathed from spirit detonation, a weapon of mass destruction boasting of firepower sufficient to annihilate a city completely once activated.
(—Normally, I'd get vaporized.)
That must be it.
Trying to explain why he still existed, Kamito concluded...
"...I'm already dead, so this place is Valhalla?"
Thinking calmly, Kamito reached such a conclusion.
Valhalla was a resting place for the souls of the dead.
Legend spoke of it as a paradise located somewhere in Astral Zero. However, this was just what the Divine Institute claimed to the outside world. No one knew if it really existed or not.
As a paradise, his current location was rather crude.
(No wait, now is not the time to relax!)
Kamito was just about to stand up—
When he suddenly noticed—
His right hand, touching the floor of black stone.
The spirit seal on the back of his hand was glowing faintly.
Were he dead and sent off to the afterlife—
Then his spirit contract with Est would be broken, hence the spirit seal should be erased.
Kamito took off his left hand's leather glove.
The emblem of a sword crossed with a moon—Restia's spirit seal—was intact too.
(Oh right, where are they!?)
Kamito poured divine power into the spirit seals on his hands to summon the two sword spirits.
...But there was no response. If the spirit seals were still visible, then the connections should not be cut—
"Relax. Time here is separated from that of the human realm."
Kamito heard a voice that he seemed to recall hearing somewhere previously.
At the same time, a man suddenly appeared before him.
Kamito had trouble getting his voice out of his throat.
The young man was dressed like a desert merchant.
He was Safian, the Zohar merchant whom Kamito had met in the Demon King City.
"What's going on? Why are you here?"
Kamito stood up, staring sharply at the man before his eyes. Although he claimed to be a poor merchant who was shipwrecked in the desert and ended up in the Demon King City, this clearly was impossible.
...Who the hell was he?
"Do not be so wary. I am not trying to win you over by favors, but I did save your life at least."
Kamito stared at Safian with skepticism in his eyes.
"Where is this? We're not inside the pyramid, right?"
"This place is a dimensional gap—neither in the human realm nor Astral Zero."
"A dimensional gap?"
"After the spirit war, the originally unified world was split into the human realm and Astral Zero. At the same time, a few dimensional gaps were formed by chance. This is one of them."
"...So it's a different dimension from the Demon King's Tomb, huh?"
"You are quick on the uptake. As expected of the Demon King's successor. Or perhaps, you asked Iris already?"
"She mentioned that this Demon King City consists of the Demon King's memory fragments anchored in a dimensional gap through the power of the Demon King's Tomb. To be honest, I can't fully understand it, but there are other places apart from the Demon King City that exist in dimensional gaps, right?"
"Indeed. And this dimension is a tiny gap that I can use freely."
As though proud of his crude private room, Safian spread his arms.
"This dimension doesn't seem to offer much. What are these ruins?"
"This used to be a historical site belonging to the Elves. However, the majority of such sites were destroyed in the Spirit War."
...So that's why it had a similar feel to the ruins on Ragna Ys.
"Anyway, let me thank you first. Looks like you really did save me."
"I am glad I made it in time. Any later and you would have been vaporized."
Kamito spoke softly.
"What happend to Est and Restia? Are they here too?"
"No, you are the only one transported here. After all, it all happened at great haste. However, there is no need to worry about those two spirits. No matter what, they are the legendary sacred sword and the Demon King's demon sword."
"So you even know about Est and Restia?"
Kamito replied. Safian shrugged and smiled wryly.
"Safian, who exactly are you? By now, are you still going to insist you're just an ordinary merchant?"
"Oh? I thought you would have realized my true identity after meeting with Iris."
"Well, although I have a rough guess—"
Kamito took out a gold coin from his chest pocket and flicked it lightly with his thumb.
"This is coin of the Demon King City that you exchanged for me. I've been wondering the whole time whose face the face on it resembled... If I take a closer look, it's identical to yours."
"Hmm, and so?"
"Gold coins have the highest value among coins. The face on the coin must be the ruler's face. And the Demon King City's ruler is—"
"You're Demon King Solomon, right?"
Safian smiled without answering.
Kamito took it as a silent yes and continued.
"But it was only just now when I became convinced of this. In the burial chamber, I saw what happened a thousand years ago. Although the Demon King's face was blurred, at least I can tell he doesn't look like a monster like the legends say."
"Is that so? Did Iris show you everything?"
"Yeah. How you were called a hero, then falling to become the Demon King. I saw it all."
Kamito stared at the man before him.
This was precisely the man who was known as a hero to an ancient kingdom—
The evil Demon King Solomon, who had brought unprecedented terror and chaos to the continent.
"You are half correct."
Kamito frowned in surprise.
"I am different from the Demon King described in legends. I am a product of the regrets from the final moments of the human named Solomon Yelsion. A lingering grudge, if you will. A pathetic being without the Demon King's power and can only wander between dimensional gaps."
Saying that, the Demon King, who looked like a young man, laughed in self-deprecation.
...So that was how it was. This man was a fragment of memory as mentioned by the spirit Iris.
Like the Demon King City's residents, was he a bubble-like existence?
From the time when he was still a human hero before he was known as the Demon King—
(...That being said, this image is way too different from the Demon King legends circulating in folklore.)
Kamito whispered in his thoughts.
From appearance, he looked like just a fine young man.
In the case of Kamito, who was similarly just a male elementalist, yet he had been called the Demon King of the Night. This notorious name was totally imposed by popular opinion.
"Then what is your job?"
"What do you mean by job?"
He cocked his head in puzzlement at Kamito's question.
"The spirit Iris is the guardian of the Demon King's Coffin's seal. You have a job too, right?"
"...Indeed. If she is the guardian of this place, then I am the administrator of the Demon King City. Repairing dimensional tears, sending occasional travelers back to the human realm when they are drawn here by accident or intent, etc. I suppose such things would count, speaking of jobs."
"I can't believe there's nothing big."
"I have said so already. I wield none of the former Demon King's power."
Safian—Demon King Solomon—smiled wryly.
"But now, my job is coming to an end."
"...What do you mean?"
"This Demon King City is about to vanish."
Kamito was speechless.
Did the spirit detonation used by Lurie cause destruction of such great scale...?
(No, that Bloodstone should be no bigger than a heart—)
It should not have the firepower to destroy an entire city.
"This city relies on the pyramid, the Demon King's Tomb, to stay anchored to the dimensional gap. Once the pyramid is damaged, this city would naturally collapse. Moreover, this city was originally generated in an unstable dimension, akin to a building built on sand."
What was going to happen to the spirit Iris, the guardian of the Demon King's Tomb?
Solomon shook his head. Did he notice what Kamito was thinking?
"Her existence is inseparable from the Demon King's Tomb. Once this place collapses, of course she will vanish and so will I."
Surprisingly, there was no sadness in his voice.
Had he already prepared himself for this day to arrive eventually?
"When Iris loses power, the seal on the Demon King's Coffin will be lifted. The woman who fought you must have figured this out, which is why she used spirit detonation there."
"...So what exactly is sealed inside the Demon King's Coffin?"
According to legends passed down by the Demon King's cult, told to him by Restia, the Demon King's remains lay dormant in the coffin. One would obtain great power should one lay their hands on the coffin.
"How utterly ignorant—"
That was what Lurie Lizaldia had said.
Sleeping inside that coffin was not the so-called Demon King's power—
But a holy relic of the Holy Kingdom's instead.
Solomon quietly shook his head.
"—Ultimately, the so-called Demon King's Coffin did not exist in the first place."
Kamito could not help but widen his eyes.
"It was nothing more than a rumor spread by the Demon King cult."
"Th-Then what was the spirit Iris guarding here?"
Kamito was stunned.
"You have already seen it."
"What are you talking about?"
"The spirit crystal within which the spirit Iris is sealed, that is what she had been protecting for the past thousand years."
The gigantic crystal, glowing with iridescent light.
It was what the spirit Iris had been protecting till now—
Just then, the candlestick's flame suddenly extinguished.
Not because the wind blew it out. There was no wind here.
By the time Kamito noticed, Solomon had changed to a serious expression, staring off into the darkness of empty space.
"...It appears she has awakened."
"—Yes. The sealed Sacred Maiden."
"What is going on?"
"I have no idea either—Kyah!"
A violent earthquake was taking place. Seeing the ground in front of them suddenly crack open, Georgios, who was carrying Fianna in his arms, jumped and leaped over the gap.
With the heavy sound of metal, the knight spirit landed safely.
"Your Highness, are you alright?"
Leading the way, Rinslet looked back from riding Fenrir's back.
"I am fine, though I accidentally bit my tongue."
Frowning, Fianna stuck out her reddened tongue.
"Let us exit the city first. The buildings here are too densely packed, which is dangerous."
"What about Claire and the others? Also, we have yet to locate Kamito-kun."
"Those three will be fine. Your safety is of paramount importance, Your Highness."
Listening to Rinslet, Fianna bit her lip lightly.
Currently, she was the symbol of Ordesia's anti-Emperor faction.
She must not lose her life here.
"...I understand. Georgios, sprint out of the city gate!"
Answering in a hollow voice, the knight spirit began to run, crushing stone tiles underfoot.
"Time to go, Fenrir!"
No one on the streets paid attention to the two escaping girls. As the city began to collapse, the residents of the Demon King City turned into particles of light and disappeared.
(...The Pyramid is gradually vanishing.)
From the knight spirit's arms, Fianna stared in astonishment at the scene.
The gigantic structure, standing where the Demon King's palace used to be situated in the past, was visible from anywhere in the city.
Right now, it was gradually disappearing, turning into particles of light as though it were melting into the air.
What connection was there between the Pyramid fading away and the sudden earthquake?
Amid the earthquake's intense tremors—
Georgios and Fenrir forcibly jumped over the bulging ground and continued to run.
Suddenly, Fenrir halted.
"Your Highness, please stop!"
Rinslet called out.
"What is the matter?"
"Something is emerging!"
Grrr, Fenrir growled as a warning.
In the next instant...
An explosion was heard. The ground in front of them cracked open wide.
With a billowing dust cloud, some kind of giant shadow emerged from underground.
"W-What is that!?"
A terrifying roar shook the atmosphere.
From the crack in the ground appeared a wild beast. A ridiculously gigantic beast.
It was a double-headed lion with burning claws and teeth.
"Could this be a spirit...?"
Fianna widened her dusk-colored eyes.
Furthermore, this was quite a high-tier spirit. A rare archdemon-class spirit, seldom encountered even in the depths of the Spirit Forest, no, even in Astral Zero—
"Why is there a spirit in a place like this!?"
"I-I have no idea either... Oh no, more are coming!?"
After the lion spirit, a giant spirit clad in armor of ice blades appeared.
Its total height far exceeded that of the surrounding buildings. With dense blades of ice sprouting from them, the arms looked like they could smash houses of stone in an instant.
"What on earth is going on...!?"
Facing the humongous spirits emerging from underground, the two girls stood astonished, rooted to the spot, unable to move.
The two spirits, slowly crawling out of the ground, glared at each other and began to face off.
Then they roared at the same time—
Unbelievably, they began to fight.
"...! H-Hold on a second, this must be some kind of joke, right!?"
A giant piece of stone debris flew over, Georgios deflected it with his sword.
The clash of fists against claws was ripping up the stone tiles on the ground, creating craters.
"Looks like this path is closed. Let us take a detour."
While taking care to avoid discovery by the fighting spirits, the two girls quietly made plans to leave.
Hearing a scream, so faint that it seemed like their imagination, the two girls exchanged a glance.
"Did you hear that just now?"
"Yes, it was... a cry for help, right?"
The residents of this city should have vanished already.
Then whose voice was it just now?
Woof woof. Fenrir barked twice.
"What is the matter?"
"Someone's scent seems to be coming from that side!"
Rinslet hastily urged Fenrir to go over there.
Arriving at a pile of rubble collapsed during the earthquake, Fenrir stopped.
"Is anybody here?"
Rinslet called out loudly while explosions continue to sound.
However, she did not hear any response.
"Georgios, dig this up!"
At Fianna's command, the knight spirit began to deftly clear away large pieces of rubble.
After the biggest piece of rubble had been moved away—
"Wait, there is someone!"
Fianna cried out.
"...Ooh... Oooooh... Ooh..."
A girl dressed in a gray cloak was groaning, her leg was trapped under rubble.
"A-Are you okay!?"
"Stay still. I will heal you right away."
Fianna hurried over and directed Georgios to move away the surrounding rubble. As she swiftly chanted spirit magic for healing, the girl's leg injury gradually vanished.
"...T-THank you... very much..."
Despite the pain showing in her expression, the girl still voiced her gratitude.
After all, spirit magic was only able to heal but not erase the pain.
"That leg does not look like it can walk yet. I will have Georgios carry you."
"May I ask who are you...?"
"I am Rinslet of House Laurenfrost."
Hearing that, the girl tilted her head in puzzlement.
At that moment—
Especially loud rumbling could be heard nearby. An adjacent building collapsed at the same time.
The resulting cloud of dust caused Fianna and the others to cough incessantly.
"Let us chat properly later. We must get out of here first."
The girl nodded and was picked up by Georgios.
Suddenly, Fianna noticed a certain object the girl was clutching tightly to her chest.
It was a book written in High Ancient.
As a talented princess maiden, Fianna could tell from a single glance that this was no ordinary book.
Exuding a mysterious aura, this was a book-shaped elemental waffe.
In other words, this girl was an elementalist.
"...Could it be that you are Princess Saladia!?"
Hearing the name uttered by Fianna, Rinslet could not help but exclaim.
The girl widened her eyes forcefully and closed her lips tightly.
Upon closer examination...
Her face did resemble that of her older sister, Sjora.
Saying that, she frantically hid her face under her hood and tried to deny.
However, Fianna held the girl's hand and introduced herself.
"I am Fianna Ray Ordesia, the second princess of Ordesia."
"The second... princess...?"
"We offer a warmest welcome to you, Princess Saladia."
The girl widened her crimson eyes.